Bill Gates’s keynote at CES is newsworthy because it’s his 12th and last appearance at the trade show, but that’s about it: Unlike Steve Jobs, Gates doesn’t have a tradition of turning his public appearances into product launches, or significant announcements, and this continued Sunday night.
Some minor news: MSFT will work with GE’s NBC U to webcast the Olympics; Xbox Live will add MGM and Disney/ABC to its movie and tv download offering, etc. Gates and MSFT entertainment chief Robbie Bach talked up the prospects of the Zune, the company’s would-be iPod competitor, but didn’t back it up with stats: They noted that there are 1.5 million registered users of the Zune “Social” network, but neglected to say how many units they’ve sold — AAPL is well over 100 million.
Not a shock: Zero mention of HD DVD, the next-gen DVD format that MSFT has been supporting, and which now looks on the ropes.
By all accounts the celebrity-filled video that Gates showed at the beginning of his speech was amusing, featuring cameos from Bono, Steven Spielberg, Jon Stewart, etc. And we do mean all accounts — this event was not undercovered. A couple versions we liked: Sober pre-speech analysis from CNET’s Ina Fried and the San Jose Merc’s Dean Takahashi, and liveblog from the wags at Engadget. Bonus coverage of the long line to get into the speech from SFGate.
Most useful is this pre-speech Q&A from Reuters, who did get Gates to at least address the HD DVD problem:
Warner Brothers said last week it was backing Blu-ray exclusively. Will Microsoft remain committed to the HD DVD format even if it appears that the media companies are backing Blu-ray?
Certainly we supported both Blu-ray and HD DVD as Windows peripherals. The last announcement was Paramount opting for HD DVD and now this one is going the other way. I still think a format battle is going on there. Our contribution is the HDi Interactive format piece has been really well received. We hope to see that used broadly. I think the real competitor in the long run is digital (video) download. Just like in music, it is going to be the biggest of the three.
You kind of sound agnostic about the formats.
No, not really. We have definitely worked with HD DVD in a very strong fashion. Our codecs and HDi are available on the other format and we are a leader in digital download so we have some involvement in all three approaches. In the long run, people don’t want physical media. You don’t say to yourself, what’s the format battle after CD. If someone tried to introduce a new music format, you’d laugh and say ‘well isn’t that my phone, my iPod and my Zune?’ And you’d be right.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.